Episode 50 - "They Did WHAT?!!!" Finding Your Ancestors' Prison Record!

podcast episode Jul 14, 2014

Fisher continues Extreme Genes' first anniversary month with two stories about boys photographed in dresses around the turn of the last century.  Family Histoire News includes the release of over 1,000 love letters from one time President Warren G. Harding to his mistress!  The oldest living American is now 116.  The braids of a uniformed British Naval Officer that were cut from his uniform when he was tended to after losing his arm in World War I has been returned to the family.  Wait til you hear the story behind this one!  Plus, students in Britain find the 1,700 year old bodies of a family of Romans!  It may change the narrative of those early times.

Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com talks about that company's recent release of prison records.  What times and places do they cover and what can we expect to find in them?  Listen to find out.
And the guys who call themselves "Task Force History" in Alabama come on to talk about their latest find.  What was it?  And where was it found?  And what happened when they presented it to a family member?  We'll have the whole story.
Plus, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com talks about how to shoot better photos and videos.  That's why he's the "Preservation Authority!"
That's all this week on Extreme Genes!

Transcript of Episode 50

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 50

Fisher: I had no idea the whole thing about 19th century and early 20th century boys wearing dresses in photos and how to know their boys would get so much attention! Hi, it is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth and this is Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. All right, two stories came out of this. One listener Facebooked that she had thought that the century old picture she inherited was of a little girl she could not place in the family. [Laughs] It was her great grandfather! And then there was this one, and I wish she had come on to tell it herself. Susan Brown emailed to say that her father who was born in 1900 wore a dress as a toddler until potty-trained, like we talked about. And then his father went overseas to Scotland for three years. His mother got it in her head that she wouldn’t cut her son’s hair again by then replete with ringlets until his father returned. And when the boy turned six he was sent to school. Well, his mother was very quickly informed by the Principal that the child’s hair would have to be cut. When asked why, he said because the kid’s been beating up all the other kids who were making fun of him. She didn’t cut the hair. She took him out of school! And by the way, this listener has several pictures of her father in dresses at the turn of the last century. So thanks for those stories. Remember, the boys are the toddlers in dresses with the hair parted on either side, or both. And the girls had their hair parted down the middle. That’s good stuff to know. 

As mentioned last week, July is our First Anniversary month on Extreme Genes and it’s awesome to think how many family history discoveries have been made by our Genies in the last twelve months. And we’re always excited to hear what you’ve dug up. Later in the show we’re going to talk to a group of guys from Alabama who literally did just that just a few days ago, dug up a piece of 19th century family history that brought one family member to tears. We’ll be talking to the gents that call themselves Task Force History in about 25 minutes. In about seven minutes Jennifer Utley of Ancestry.com returns to talk about their new prison record release. You know it’s the stories that make your ancestors interesting and few people left as many stories behind as people who made their way through the legal system. And we all have them. What might be in those prison records that Ancestry just released and where and when do they cover? We’ll find out in minutes. We left up our survey on your Revolutionary Soldiers for a couple of weeks and sixty eight percent who answered said they had at least one soldier who fought for the patriot side in the Revolution. Thirteen were not aware of any soldiers. Six percent had soldiers on both sides and three percent had loyalist ancestors, an interesting spread of answers which really shows how much of a civil war the Revolution really was. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, AMC has renewed the show “Turn” about Washington’s Culper Spy Ring during the Revolution. If you had ancestors in the Northeast during the Revolution this is an exciting program to watch. They begin re-running the first season on Saturday nights starting in August and Season 2 doesn’t happen until spring of next year. They’re killing me. 

This week’s survey has to do with our next segment. “Are you aware of any ancestors who were imprisoned?” This does not necessarily mean they committed a crime. Maybe they were there for their own protection, right? Answer yes or no now at ExtremeGenes.com. It is time for this week’s edition of our Family Histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. A woman in Arkansas has celebrated her 116th birthday on the 4th of July. She had a cake and a party and is now the oldest living American and second oldest person on the planet. Her name is Gertrude Weaver and she was born in Arkansas near the Texas border and get this; she was married in 1915. She and her husband had four children, only one of whom is still living. He’s ninety three and partied right along with her. Parts of China are creating new traditions that future generations will look back on and say, “What?!” In these places women are wearing wedding dresses instead of caps and gowns when graduating from College. Someday those graduation pics will be hard for to sentence to understand no doubt. On July 29th over a thousand, often steamy, love notes written by President Warren G. Harding to his mistress, will be made available to the public. He and the mistress had been together some fifteen years when he finally had to break off the relationship when he moved into the White House. It’s believed she convinced him not to run for President in 1916, allowing Woodrow Wilson an easier re-election, possibly altering the course of history. Well, next time you’re in London drop by the Red Lion Hotel and say hi to Dolly Saville. Dolly is a great, great grandmother. Yes, two greats. She’s also still working. She is the world’s oldest working bartender at age 100. She works at the Red Lion three days a week and has been mixing drinks on demand since 1940. First year Archaeology students at Bournemouth University have discovered five skeletons believed to be from the same family over three generations and seventy years, dating back to Britain’s Roman Era. [Laughs] We’re talking somewhere around 300 - 350 AD. The remains were found near a site of a Roman villa where the students came upon a timber mausoleum. The era of the villa matches the time that the graves were created. The bodies consisted of three men and three women. The women were buried with pottery drinking vessels while the men were still wearing hobnailed shoes. The students have to be feeling pretty good about things. It’s thought that the discovery could lead to a re-writing of the history of late Roman Era Britain. 

As we approach July 28th and the 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI, the curious story of a Naval Lieutenant named Edward Hilton Young, called Bill, later Lord Kennet has made some news. During a naval raid on a Belgian Port on April 23rd 1918, Bill lost his right arm to German fire. Now, 95 years later his Officer Braids which had been cut away from his uniform when he received medical attention that night had been returned to his descendents. How did this happen? Well, they appeared on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. We’ve heard this before. As the braids were shown, the story was told of the man who obtained them back in 1918 on the same ship as Bill Young. The story went that the man who obtained the braids assisted with the Lieutenant received a very serious wound to his arm. The medic informed him he should keep the braids as a souvenir. Friends of the descendents knew of Bill’s story and informed the family of the BBC program they didn’t see it. Connections were made, and the descendents of a man who assisted in Bill’s emergency care presented Bill’s descendents with his Officer Braids from the very uniform he wore that fateful night. See the pictures and read more details on this incredible reunion now at ExtremeGenes.com. And coming up next, our First Anniversary month continues with a new story source for you. And there are few places better for collecting stories than prison records. This past week, Ancestry.com released a ton of them covering pens from New York to California, with more to come. What might we find in them? Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com joins us to give us some insight in three minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 50

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Utley

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com. Welcome back to the show Jennifer. 

Jennifer: Thanks for having me back. I’m glad to be here. 

Fisher: Well you know, this past week you released some records at Ancestry that I think a lot of people might not know a whole lot about, and that’s prison records. And you know, if you’re a real family historian not just looking for births and deaths and marriages and names, you’re looking for the stories, and who leaves more stories than people in prison. 

Jennifer: Totally! [Laughs] 

Fisher: Now, let’s talk about that because you’ve released quite a few of them and it really covers both coasts, are there any in between? There’s some from California, there’s some from New York. 

Jennifer: Right now we’re focused on New York and California. They have some of the most infamous prisoners in the nation so they were a good place to start. 

Fisher: Yeah they were. You got Sing Sing, you got Auburn, what’s in California?

Jennifer: In California we’ve got Folsom and we’ve got San Quentin.

Fisher: And those are legendary. Johnny Cash sang about those. 

Jennifer: That’s right.

Fisher: [Laughs] So you know it’s got to be bad. I mean good. Well for us it’s good. 

Jennifer: And in this case some of that is really good. 

Fisher: Yes, exactly. Now I don’t have any direct ancestors that I’m aware of that were in prison, but I do have some residual ones there. I’ve got a forger, I’ve got one woman who kind of ignored her children and they put her – she just wound in jail for about thirty days. You don’t have just jail records, do you? These are the big prisons. 

Jennifer: Yeah these are the State prisons. 

Fisher: So what can we expect? What can be found in some of these records that are unique? 

Jennifer: You know, because these aren’t standardized records like a census record, there’s lots of different things you can find in these that you wouldn’t expect. I was looking at one this morning for Black Bart who is the famous as stage coach robber.

Fisher: Oh! [Laughs]

Jennifer: If I just look at his record, it’s got his name, where he was from, when he entered the prison, what his crime was, but it also talks about his complexion and what he looked like, any distinguishing marks. So along with the facts that you expect to find, you can find the information about relationships they’ve had with people that will help you build the family tree and you can learn about their parents and those types of things. So, it’s not very standardized but you can find all kinds of things in it that you wouldn’t expect.

Fisher: Now at what point did prisons start using photographs of the prisoners?

Jennifer: I would guess about the 1800s. And that’s one of the greatest things about these. I mean, I think a researcher could have fun, even if they’re not your people, just looking at the different mug shots there are in these records.

Fisher: And how far back do they go?

Jennifer: They started about the mid 1800s like 1845 from New York and Sing Sing starts in 1865, the California one. They had to start establishing the prisons after the gold rush, right? People went to find gold but they also went through the criminal elements that with it as well. So, soon after the gold rush they had to start incarcerating people so those started to happen in 1850. 

Fisher: That’s pretty early. That’s good. Because I would imagine a lot of us might be aware of some ancestors or relatives who were in prison in the last century, but might have to do a little looking and might find a few surprises in the 19th century. 

Jennifer: That’s right.

Fisher: Tell us about some stories of discovery that you’re already aware of, because these have only been out for a few days now. 

Jennifer: Right. So, it’s always fun to look for the famous people in the records. We found the prison records of Lucky Luciano. He was in New York and he was actually eventually incarcerated for pandering. He has a really interesting record because when you’re looking at that it shows that he’s a barber. So he’s making very little money each week.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Jennifer: Yeah, my guess is that’s what he was frauding was his taxes. 

Fisher: Right. Well that’s how they got Capone ultimately, right? Because they couldn’t get him on crime, but they got him on faking his income tax returns.

Jennifer: Right. One of the other ones that we found is Ed Morrell. He was an accomplice of the Evans and Sontag gang to rob the Southern Pacific railroad in the 1890s. And he later wrote a memoire and his pardon was championed by the author Jack London who later used Morrell as inspiration for a character in one of his novels. 

Fisher: [Laughs] You never know do you. 

Jennifer: Yep.

Fisher: Even back n the day they found these criminals fascinating people.

Jennifer: Yes. 

Fisher: And creative characters. So with these records when you find when they come, when they go, when they face parole and that type of thing, what other records do you think that can lead you to? 

Jennifer: Well that’s what’s great about it. Because the great thing about criminals and especially those who were caught, they tend to leave a lot of records behind. You know records that really fill in the details about their lives. And so while the prison records themselves hold part of that story, knowing that these people were in prison can lead to other amazing records that are super good at storytelling. And the ones that I think are the best at storytelling are the court records and the newspaper records. Because the court records you really have to figure out if someone needed to be convicted. And with the newspapers, people were telling newspapers stories or trying to sell newspapers. So they’re telling the most interesting stories there. So these are really gateway for those two records that tell you more than maybe a vital record like a birth, marriage and death would tell. So these records are rich in the details about their actions and their politics and their personalities and their communities and even their relationships. 

Fisher: You know, I think it’s fun because you’re right, the two things that are really big right now for so many people, DNA and digitized newspapers. And the digitized newspapers just color everything now in a way that we’ve never been able to do it in the past. 

Jennifer: Oh yes. They’re the ones that we use the most often to tell stories when we’re looking at stories for family trees. 

Fisher: Now, are you guys growing your digitized newspaper collections? 

Jennifer: Always. They’re continually being updated. In fact, we have a site called Newspapers.com that’s wholly dedicated to digitizing newspapers.

Fisher: You know it’s interesting Jennifer, I had somebody say to me you know, these prison records, having them out there and having people getting all excited about finding their criminal ancestors, it kind of actually glamorizes the lifestyle. What would you say to that?

Jennifer: You know, I often talk to people, I ask them about their family trees all the time and it’s funny how often people want to talk about the horse thieves in their family tree. It’s the first thing that they bring out. 

Fisher: It is. 

Jennifer: I think the Americans kind of feel a little bit like the Australians do. I mean the Australians take great pride in having a convict in their tree, right?

Fisher: Right. They’re all convicts. 

Jennifer: That’s right. So I think the Americans, I think there’s like this idea of, these were our people who went and settled in this unknown country and that some of them were kind of shady. But you know, any time you look into the stories in your family tree, you need to remember our ancestors lived in a certain place at a certain time, right?

Fisher: Yes. 

Jennifer: And we can’t judge our ancestors by the standards that we have today. Our ancestors were people who had to make tough choices just like we do and sometimes they made the wrong choices. And I think it’s interesting to look at the circumstances in their lives and try and learn from it you know. I think it can lend relevance to our own lives today. And I think that looking back to those ones that made mistakes I think we can even find comfort in learning about those mistakes that family members made in the past. And it can help people get through trying times in their own lives. I’m really amazed at how powerful and relevant learning about your family history can be. You know the people who were the heroes and the people who maybe didn’t make all the right choices. 

Fisher: And the heroes don’t always make all the right choices either nor do the scoundrels always make the bad choices. Janet Hovorka in a recent talk I heard, made a great comment about that saying, “You know, there’s a little bit of hero in every scoundrel, and a little bit of scoundrel in every hero.”

Jennifer: Nice. And I think just learning about the iterations they were facing and what choices they did have, can be really enlightening. 

Fisher: That’s the whole point of all of this ultimately, isn’t it? It isn’t to aggrandize us because our ancestors were so perfect, but to find out the choices they made, the mistakes, and the good things that they did so we can learn from both sides of the ledger.

Jennifer: Yeah, I believe that.

Fisher: You know, I get such a kick out of looking at these records and see what they did and see how they got out, and then maybe try to follow that up and gather some newspaper stories about the different individuals because anybody who has gone to prison generally is going to make the paper because it’s a larger crime. Agreed? 

Jennifer: Agreed. I also think that as you find these people in your tree somewhere, I think that these are the kind of stories that could also inspire the younger generations. If they don’t see it as, you know, boring birth dates and death dates, all of a sudden you’ve got people who did funny things and I think that sharing those stories can actually lend more interest to the younger generations as they come up about their family history. 

Fisher: Well, Jennifer Utley thank you so much for your time and this is very exciting stuff I think for a lot of people. They’ve got to open their minds a little and they might find something they didn’t expect when they got to these new prison records that are posted on Ancestry.com. Jennifer Utley from Ancestry thanks for joining us!

Jennifer: Thanks for having me. It’s fun to be here.  

Fisher: And coming up next, its three guys from Alabama who have put together a little organization called Task Force History and they research places and bring metal detectors and what do they find? Well they had an interesting discovery last week. We’ll hear from Heath, and Brian and Ray, coming up next on Extreme Genes Family History Radio, America’s Family History Show.      

Segment 3 Episode 50

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Heath Jones, Ray Camp and Brian Romine

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth. And on the line with us from all over Alabama we’ve got the Task Force History Group. We’ve got Heath Jones, Ray Camp and Brian Romine. How are you doing guys?

Group: Good

Fisher: Now these guys in the last week or so went out with their metal detectors and started digging. First of all, tell us about what you do and why you’re doing it.

Heath: Basically, what we do Mr Fisher, we go out and try to find history. And whether it’s history from somebody’s family or Civil War history or otherwise, we go out and try to piece together the piece of the puzzle that sometimes are lost in the text books. 

Fisher: And so you guys went out to a farmhouse not too long ago, and made an interesting find. 

Heath: We did. I actually own property here in Cleveland County and Heflin, Alabama that’s been in my family for the past hundred plus years since prior Civil War and some of my family had lived on that property. And we went out to that home place and started detecting to see what we could find. 

Fisher: Now you’re talking about a home place. Is the house still there? 

Heath: No, the house burned at some point prior to 1913 but it’s not really recorded as to when the house was lost. We know it was occupied somewhere between 1840 and 1910, somewhere in that range. 

Fisher: And so you know who the people were who lived there?

Heath: Yes. My grandmother’s aunt, so it would be my great, great aunt.

Fisher: And she was there for some time, obviously. And so you went out there with a metal detector. Now, was it you Brian that got the new metal detector and said, “Let’s go?”

Brian: Well, yeah. I kind of convinced Heath to let me come over to his place and try it out, he sold it to me. Detectors to kind of gadget guys we have to get a new machine every now and then to play with.

Fisher: [Laughs] And you need the right place to play obviously.

Brian: Exactly, exactly.

Fisher: Now this is where the house stood that you guys went around. What’s your role in this by the way, Ray?

Ray: I was just moral support. 

Fisher: [Laughs] 

Ray: I carried the water.

Fisher: You carried the water, okay. [Laughs]

Ray: No, we were invited out there to Heath’s place. We just wanted to find out what was going on in that area, and we kind of spread out a little bit and Brian all of sudden very interesting. I’m definitely going to let him tell you about this.

Fisher: Okay, so what did you come up with Brian?

Brian: Well, we were scanning around the area. We knew approximately where the house was and Heath had found an old well out there. And he kind of told us in the general area to watch our step. So we kind of fanned out and I headed towards what I thought would have been the back property before it dropped off on the hillside, and just walking along and right near a very small tree I got a signal that I thought should have been a penny type signal from the new machine. And so I stopped and dug it up. So when I got it cleaned off I could see it was a ring. It was bent of course, but it was an old copper ring. And it was common in the period around and just after the Civil War for those copper rings to be made and then gold-plated. It was called a poor man’s wedding band. And so at that point everyone realized that I had a wedding ring. Of course, I hollered out to Heath, “I’ve got something you might want to see.” So he came over and took a look at it. 

Fisher: What do you think about it Heath? Where do you think it came from?

Heath: Well, I believe it’s my great, great aunt’s wedding ring. The best that we can tell is that it was exciting. And to have something that’s been lost since the Civil War Era it was just amazing. And I wanted to take it and show my grandmother and that’s what we did. Brian immediately tried to give me the ring. I initially turned him down. I wouldn’t take it, because I mean he found it.

Fisher: Yeah on your property with your family. Come on!

Heath: Sure. I know. But, you know that’s part of it. We find relics like those types things occasionally, so I didn’t want to take his find away from him. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] First of all, are there any markings on this thing?

Heath: No, no it’s basically just the...there was some gold-plating still left on it, and from my understanding that’s kind of rare.

Fisher: Yeah, I would think so. What have you done with it since?

Heath: Well, we’d given it to my grandmother. Brian and I’ll let him tell you about that, but he presented it to my grandmother and this can be put in a safety deposit box.

Fisher: Talk about that Brian. What was her reaction when you gave her the ring that was from her family’s home?

Brian: Well, honestly I think it choked her up a little bit when we told her where we’d found it, I think she realized that probably there were some family significance to it. She had a real glow on her face and in her eyes when she was told and I could tell she was thinking about the old people in her family that had been gone for a while.

Ray: This wee woman’s face just lit up. It did. It did. 

Brian: And bless her heart. She said, “I wish you could buy it.” I said, “Ma’am, you do not have to buy it. You can have it.” And it did my heart good to give it to her.

Fisher: So she’s like eighty eight years old, right Heath?

Heath: She is. And she actually lost her mother. This is her mother’s sister that we believe the ring belonged to. My grandmother lost her mother when she was thirteen years old, and she lost her dad several years later and ended up being raised by her older sister, so finding something in her family. You know that’s hard to come by. They lost their home to the fires several years later and everything was gone. So this is one of the few things she will actually have to be able to remember her family by.

Fisher: Isn’t that something? 

Heath: It was so impressive to see. My grandmother is a woman of many words. She never had a loss for words. And to see her choked up and be speechless was really rare. 

Fisher: Did you video this thing?

Heath: No, and I wish we had. I really wish we had.

Fisher: Tell us about the organization you’re putting together. You’ve got a Facebook page going. You’ve got some followers there. “Task Force History in Alabama” now what do you do on that site?  

Heath: Well, basically what we do, once a week we go out and investigate history. Many of our group members are either military, or former military, law enforcement or former law enforcement. Myself, I’m a former state police investigator and when we developed this group we wanted to first find people with high levels of integrity. Because when we go out to a site like this, just like with Brian, somebody with no integrity could have easily have put that ring in his pocket and went about their way and say they didn’t find anything. But we wanted people that would do the right thing when they were invited to lands to find things like that. And so that’s why we put that group together, so that we could go out and investigate these type of areas and not have to worry about somebody doing the wrong thing. 

Fisher: How many people are in your group overall? 

Heath: We have 35 people in our group by now.

Fisher: Wow! Do you go out in little clusters? 

Heath: Yeah, basically it’s somebody has a historical area that they want us to investigate. They will call and we’ll try to research the land, the history of it and try to find artefacts tying that history back.

Fisher: Is it usually family history that you discover or something else?

Heath: You know sometimes it is family history, but we do a lot of Civil War stuff, we also do some War of 1812 things. And we’ve got a project working right now in North Georgia, where we’re going to check out an area of land that was part of the Trail with Tears. So that’s one of the projects we got going. We’ve got a cannon that’s supposed to be in a river here in Alabama, that’s going to be an interesting project. We were contacted by a museum to investigate that and we’re looking forward to that. We’ve got divers on our team. We’re going to send them down to take a look at it. We’re working with a state archaeologist to get that excavated and get that in a museum somewhere.

Fisher: So Heath, do you guys actually train one another to become more and more expert in different areas of this kind of research? 

Heath: True. You know we’ve got guys who specialize in the research, the actual research part, we have guys that are just more specialized in the detecting part and then we have guys that actually do underwater detecting, they do the diving. So it’s a team effort but we have everybody that will have their own specialization and we just come together to make it work. 

Fisher: That’s so much fun. It’s basically just a hobby then, right? 

Heath: It is. We’re not paid, we don’t even ask for money when we get called out to do any of this stuff. So if anybody wants us to come out and look at their property, we’ll be glad to do it, we won’t charge a thing. We just want to do it to preserve history and to help people find more out about their family and their history. 

Fisher: And it’s the fun of the hunt isn’t it?

Brian: It is.

Fisher: It’s Task Force History; it’s Heath, Brian and Ray. They had a great find here, and actually presented that to Heath’s grandmother recently, an old Civil War Era ring with gold plating on it. Hey, congratulations guys, best of luck to you and your future searches!

Group: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having us.

Fisher: And coming next in three minutes, “Are you stuck with some video of grandma and grandpa that was recorded portrait instead of landscape? Tom Perry our Preservation Authority will be here to tell you what to do about it on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 50

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes Family History Radio, America's Family History Show. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry. He's our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Welcome back, Tom.

Tom: Good to be back.

Fisher: And we have another question for you, emailed to [email protected].This one from Francine Fiorito in Cos Cob, Connecticut. And she said, "Tom, I recently videotaped my grandparents and the video came out sideways."

Tom: Woops!

Fisher: "First of all, can I turn it the right way? Is there a way to edit that, to straighten it out? And the other thing is, there's all this space above grandma's head, what do we do about this?"

Tom: Composition is very important when you're shooting, because things can make you feel unnatural when the composition is wrong. Like with too much headroom as call it at the top, too much on the side, too much at the bottom. You never ever want to put your grandma or grandpa or anybody you're interviewing right smack dab in the middle of the frame. What you want to do is, imagine on your viewfinder you have a tic tac toe, we call it rules of thirds. In fact, some of the newer cameras, you can actually turn that on and off. That will help you compose your pictures better. For instance, you want grandma and grandpa's eyes to be on the top line of the tic tac toe, the one that's going across it horizontally, and that just makes it feel more comfortable. You can cut off their head all the way down to their eyebrows and it will still okay, but you never want people so low that you're cutting their chin off, unless you're going to some weird, dramatic effect.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Because their chin's going in and out of the frame, you know, like a pogo stick, and it will start driving you crazy.

Fisher: Yeah, you kind of lose the benefit of the stories at that point, don't you?

Tom: Exactly. Just like when we would go and watch our neighbor's home movies, then we go back and look at ours and say, "Our movies really suck!" They're the same things, you're at the same National Parks, it’s just the way that you compose it. And maybe in the second segment, I can get into a little bit more on that. Now, about shooting your stuff sideways, you're not the first and you won't be the last. We have people that bring in film that they turned the camera sideways, because with a normal 35mm camera, you can do that. And then when you're looking at the print, you can right side it up.

Fisher: Now you're talking about film or video here?

Tom: Both.

Fisher: Oh, really?

Tom: Oh, yeah, film and video, because when somebody's shooting an old 8mm film, they would turn the camera sideways because they wanted it in landscape mode or they wanted it in portrait mode or whatever, not realizing that when you take it with still camera, you can take the print and rotate it. When you're projecting it with your projector or looking at it on your TV, it’s kind of hard to turn it sideways. So there's a couple of ways you can fix this. I believe there's a new plug in you can get for Final Cut Pro, that when you're editing it, you can actually take your footage and rotate it. So since you shot it in portrait mode, you can put it back into landscape mode, which is the way TVs are. So if you shot grandma and grandpa the other way, they're not going to fit. There's a couple of ways you can do this, either do the way with Final Cut Pro, or a good editing program that will let you rotate it. One way that sounds really, really silly, but it’s the easiest, cheapest way to do it, you can buy these LCD monitors now for a couple of hundred bucks that are like, you know, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen inch monitors, and I've actually had people do this. Take it, rotate it and shoot the screen.

Fisher: Really?

Tom: Yeah, just reshoot it. The best is plasma, but you don't want to be rotating plasma screens, because they're too heavy. But these little LCD ones, a lot of them have a pivot on them, if not, just fold up the stand and lean it against a wall and reshoot it. If none of these ways work for you, what I would suggest is, take the audio part, which is the most important, and put it on a CD, put it on a new track and just make it into a slideshow. Get photos, get film, get video, mix them together, almost like a montage, while they’re talking, telling their history story, that way. That's probably the easiest way to do it. And that way works really, really good. I'd suggest something like that. If you have questions, just write to me, [email protected], and we can help you with just about any kind of question you may have.

Fisher: All right, we're going to break, Tom. Good advice. And what are we going to talk about next?

Tom: We'll get into composition, talk a little bit more about rules of third, lighting and a few other things.

Fisher: All right, that's next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 50

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Welcome back, final segment of Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with Tom Perry the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, and we're talking about videography and photography and how to do it better. We have so many different devices and types of equipment to use, and yet the rules still remain the same, don't they?

Tom: Oh, they do. That's the thing that's really incredible is, the way they shot daguerreotypes, paintings, you know, murals, anything that you do, any kind of media. If you do these simple things, your stuff will look good.

Fisher: Well, Michelangelo followed these same rules, did he not?

Tom: Exactly. Oh, absolutely. Just like when he did David, he just chipped away all the parts that didn't look like David and it came out perfect.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Tom: But seriously, just follow the simple rules, and whether you're shooting with an iPhone, you're shooting with an old super8 camera, a video camera, just follow the very simple rules, a guy in a black suit, a girl in a white dress, what's the difference? It’s the way you compose your picture together that's so important, the way they light it. One thing I find a lot of people try using extra lights and think things are going to look better, remember, in our solar system, we have one sun. So basically, you have shadows coming from one direction. I see people set up lighting in a house and there's a shadow going right on grandpa and left on grandma. It’s uncomfortable, and you don't know why. The reason is, you're used to seeing shadows always going in one direction depending on where the sun is as it rises in the east and sets in the west. So if you have a big light shining on grandma from the right and grandpa from the left, you just made a solar system with two suns in it.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: So it doesn't feel comfortable. You don't understand why, but that's why it doesn't feel comfortable. You want to make sure your lighting looks real and genuine. So if you look at a professional person's lighting, they'll do what's called “lucky head light” which kind of shines on your head to kind of give you dimension, separates you from the background which is good, but it’s not far enough that it’s going to throw a shadow off their nose. Then you have key light, which is your main light, which is usually on your right or left side, depending how you're setting people up and then you're going to have a field light on the other side, which kind of is like a softer light. It’s not sharp enough to cast a big shadow on the other side of their face, so they look good. And one time when you're interviewing like two people, grandma and grandpa together, you set up a key light on grandma, which can be the field light on grandpa, then you set up a key light on grandpa, which is the field light on grandma.

Fisher: Hold on, I'm taking notes here. This is complicated. People aren't going to remember that, Tom, so where would they go to find out more about field lights and key lights?

Tom: You can go to VideoMaker.com. They have a magazine that comes out that's all about different tips. Go to their website, it’s free, and click on lighting, and you'll find a lot more stuff than you'll ever want to know about it. So just read what you're comfortable with, but even just the littlest, teeniest things make things good. You don't have to become a professional lighter. You don't have to become a professional videographer to make your pictures look good. Just remember, you want to light them so it’s comfortable. You don't want things too hot. And usually when you're shooting people, if they have light hair, like if everybody in your family is blonde, you want a darker background. If they have dark hair or they are people of color, you want a lighter background so they can actually be separated from the background, and it gives dimension to your pictures so it looks better. And also, as we talked about in the first segment a little bit, rules of thirds, that's probably the most important thing you can remember. So imagine imaginary lines on your viewfinder that looks like a tic tac toe and check your settings, and if you can turn that on, leave it on 24/7, because it’s not recording it to your tape, it’s just giving you an idea. So as you're shooting your grandson of your nephew or grandma and grandpa, keep their eyes on the top line of the tic tac toe, so that that give them good dimension below so their chin's not going in and out of frame, and if they looking straight at you, kind of center them in the picture. If you want to do a side shot, make sure the extra space is in front of them, because if it’s behind them, it looks like they're running into the wall. So keep the leading edge, the extra space in the direction they're looking into, so they're looking into space and not looking into the side of the camera.

Fisher: All right, Tom. Thanks, great advice as always. And if you have a question for Tom, you can email him at [email protected], and you might even hear your question answered on the air. That's it for this week. Thanks to Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com, for our conversation about their new prison records that have been released. Plus the guys from Alabama, Task Force History with an amazing find this past week. If you missed either segment or you want to hear them again, of course you can catch the podcast on iTunes and iHeart Radio. And of course, download our free podcast app to your iPhone or Android device. Take care. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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